Putting government grants to work for a win-win benefit

Our experience with the South Australian government is a case study of government working with business to help bring about a win-win situation.

Like any company, we talk to government about what we’re doing and where there is potential help – and we think we are a relevant candidate – we apply for assistance.

This year we have received 2 grants from the South Australian Government by way of programs that encourage economic development in the state.

We own the biggest graphite deposit in Australia by a factor of three and we are planning to mine that graphite for use in lithium-ion batteries, which will be used in power storage, mobile phones and electric vehicles.

Our plans for the Siviour deposit on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula envisage starting mine construction in 2020 and getting the mine up and running by 2021. We expect it to have one of the lowest production costs of any similar project in the world.

And with global demand for graphite expected to triple by 2020, it’s a timely plan.

For the state government, our project is attractive because of its potential to create jobs on the Eyre Peninsula; not only in the larger centres such as Whyalla and Port Lincoln but also in the nearby smaller towns, such as Arno Bay, Cleve, Cowell and Tumby Bay.

That is the thinking behind the two grants we’ve been awarded this year.

In May, we received a $100,000 research grant to conduct mineral processing test work at Siviour. The grant came from the South Australian Government’s Future Industries Accelerator Research and Development Voucher Scheme, headed by the University of South Australia’s Future Industries Institute, which aims to accelerate the growth of local industries, especially in innovative areas that can benefit the state’s economy.

That funding specifically supports mineral processing test work we’re doing, with the aim of enhancing the Siviour mineral process flow sheet and finding efficiencies and cost reductions that could be applied to a full-scale operation.

The second grant, which was awarded earlier this month, comes from the Future Jobs Fund, a state government-sponsored program to support the development of globally competitive industries and industrial capabilities in South Australia.

We’ll use the $25,000 grant to develop a business case to support the building of a processing plant at Arno Bay to produce a high-quality, high-purity flake graphite concentrate.

Governments at all levels are under pressure to spend public funds wisely and we believe this is the perfect example of a government investment that could generate sustained long-term benefits.

According to our scoping study, the Siviour project would operate for at least 20 years. That is a lot of employment, with all of the flow-on benefits that brings to the Eyre Peninsula and the whole state.

The project life could be even longer than that. Since we announced our initial resource last year, our drilling has already quadrupled the ore inventory and there is substantial upside still available from undrilled areas.

We can’t yet say if we will be processing the graphite on-site as there is a lot of work to do in terms of the feasibility study, which is expected to be completed in the second half of 2018.

But with the wonderful support we’ve received from the state government, we’ve got every chance of turning our graphite deposit into an integrated operation supplying the world with advanced materials that have many exciting applications, and creating long-term, high-value jobs in South Australia.

Our Siviour graphite deposit can spark the battery market

With global demand for graphite expected to triple by 2020, the carbon material is certainly hot property.

The main driver of demand is lithium-ion batteries, which are used in the burgeoning electric vehicle industry, but which also have growing use in consumer electronic devices as well as applications with renewable energy and grid storage.

But the increased uses for graphite come with a few caveats on the supply front.

China dominates current supply at 70% of the market. Brazil contributes 15% with Canada and India supplying 5% apiece.

The graphite market needs secure supply. While there are substantial emerging large-scale graphite developments in Africa, the sovereign risk there was highlighted by new mining laws in Tanzania that give the government increased free-carried equity interests and further authority to renegotiate mining concessions.

The new Tanzanian laws – and continuing political uncertainty in Mozambique, which is also a graphite province – highlight Australia’s low sovereign risk.

And this is where our Siviour deposit in South Australia comes in.

Discovered only last year, Siviour is a world-class deposit in terms of size, quality and cost.

It is the world’s ninth largest indicated graphite resource and the largest JORC-compliant resource in Australia.

Siviour weighs in at 80.6 million tonnes of ore at a grade of 7.9% total graphitic carbon (TGC) for 6.4 million tonnes of contained graphite.

Moreover, the deposit’s flat laying orientation underpins a low cost of production.

According to the scoping study, Siviour could produce at a cash cost of $450 (US$333) a tonne, one of the lowest costs of production of any graphite development globally and the lowest of any reported development outside of Africa.

With the low cost of production, the payback period is estimated at only 1.7 years.

The location in South Australia – on the Eyre Peninsula, roughly between Whyalla and Port Lincoln – comes into its own, with a stable political environment, skilled workforce, access to established infrastructure and proximity to established industrial centres for advanced processing.

It’s no coincidence that Tesla’s Elon Musk has announced plans to build the world’s biggest battery in South Australia.

And with metallurgical results confirming Siviour’s potential to produce high-quality, high-purity graphite concentrates for sale into the lithium-ion battery sector and other high-growth market segments, it’s a market we’re looking forward to joining too.